The iPod at 5

Monday, 2006-10-23; 23:53:00

Wherein I relate how I got into music, and my first MP3 player, the original iPod

A piece of history:

Original iPod Receipt

That's the receipt for my first iPod, dated November 12, 2001, for the one and only original iPod. Well, not that it was iPod #1 off the manufacturing line, but it's true -- I was sucked into the iPod "revolution" practically from day 1.

Believe it or not, despite the fact that it's not yet been a decade, I can't really remember what music was like before the "digital revolution". Sure, we've always had a radio and a CD player in our house, but I never personally used it to listen to my own music. My mom might put on some rock music station, or my dad would put on classical music or monk chanting, but I would never use it to listen to something that I really wanted to listen to. I didn't even really listen to music that much at all.

I was basically a classical music freak. That's the only type of music I really "liked", indoctrinated by years of listening to opera and Mozart and Bach through my parents. (Not that I don't like it anymore, I just prefer to listen to other genres.) But it was never really my music; I'd just listen to what my parents put on, or I would play classical piano pieces that were recommended by my teacher. I tried a few times to get into jazz piano, but it didn't work out.

My first personal computer, one that I was able to use exclusively as my own, was the original iMac. A bondi blue, 233 MHz dream machine, I "paid" for it with my own money (i.e.: a hundred or so bucks, while my parents "subsidized" the rest), running good ol' Mac OS 8.1. For some reason, the new computer smell always stayed with that iMac, at least as long as you bent over the vents on the top of the machine.

One day, my dad brought home a piece of software called SoundJam MP. The husband of my mom's coworker, Bill Kincaid, was one of the creators of the software, and he gave us a free copy to test out. I installed it, played around with it for a bit, but ultimately really didn't use it that much. I had no CDs to speak of, so it was kind of a useless program for me. (Remember, this was around 1999 when Napster wasn't a force to be reckoned with.) Little did I know that I had installed what was basically going to be the torch-bearer for the digital music revolution. At least for me, anyway.

2001 was really the year when I really started to find music that I liked. The reason? iTunes. Yeah, I'm young enough to say that iTunes was what got me into music.

It's kind of funny. Actually, it's kind of surprising in another way, since I was in my last year of high school when iTunes came out. My taste in music developed much later than a lot of people (at least from what I can tell), around the same time that my interest in girls also developed, heh. Yeah, that late. At that time, I pretty much didn't know who the hell Smash Mouth, Blink 182, Dave Matthews Band, or Matchbox Twenty were, even though they were all bands who were represented on a CD that was given out at grad night. (Hah, think about that one for a sec -- can you imagine a school giving out burned CDs to all their graduating students these days? The RIAA would have a fit!)

Of course, following my "discovery" of iTunes deep into my Apple-fanboy years was the discovery of Napster, and the ability to download songs from anybody else. I have to admit that one of the first bands that I downloaded from Napster was the Backstreet Boys, even though I grew out of that phase in such a hurry that it's practically not even a footnote in my life. Let's just say that when you listen to that music without headphones, you'll get more than a few weird looks and comments from various members of your family, heh heh. (I still maintain that the Backstreet Boys weren't that bad; I never understood the whole contempt thing for them, especially when there are plenty of other pop music bands -- *coughBritneySpearscough* -- that are STILL popular today. Somehow, she keeps on doing it again.)

I'm sure there are probably a few people out there who would be disgusted by the fact that I've only ever bought 2 CDs in my life. And the only real reason that I bought those two CDs was because I received a $20 Warehouse Music gift card from one of my relatives as a Christmas present, and there was no reason not to spend it. If you're wondering, the two CDs that I bought were The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby, both by U2. They both continue to collect dust on my shelf, after each being ripped once to MP3s, and then again to AACs. Portable CD player? Hah!

So when Apple unveiled the iPod on October 23, 2001, it was the perfect device for me. It was small, transferred songs quickly, and since I had only relatively recently gotten into music, my entire music library fit on the iPod with room to spare. Couple that with my practical devotion to all things Apple, and my $400 was as good as gone.

Heh heh, I was so psyched with the iPod when I finally received it that as soon as all my songs were transferred, I went down to the dining hall in my dorm (now that I was a bright-eyed freshman in college) and ate while listening to my iPod. Of course everybody looked at me weird, but I didn't really care since I had the coolest MP3 player ever, and obviously I showed it off to everybody. I believe that was also the quarter when I went to math lecture with my iPod on, and even asked the professor a question with my earbuds still in.

That iPod served me well. I used it as a portable hard drive for my documents and my contacts and calendars, and it went around with me everywhere. I also remember being in a hurry to get somewhere, having my iPod fall out of my red hoodie, feeling my heart drop as I heard the hollow clack and watched my iPod skid for 10 feet into the bushes, and heaving a sigh of relief when I popped my earbuds back in only to hear the music had kept on playing. (Thank god for 32 MB caches!)

Sadly, that iPod is long gone. I sold all of it, minus the 5 GB micro hard drive, to a guy who wanted to repair his broken iPod. I met the guy at an REI and got around $30 for the casing, the old battery that only held a few hours of charge, and whatever else was packed inside that revolutionary device with the white front and the metal back. The micro hard drive still sits on my shelf inside a plastic baggy, a literal time capsule of my life two years ago when my first portable music player ever refused to display anything but a pixelated, black and white Apple logo.

Yep, I'm not only a kid of the computer age, being raised on my dad's lap while he worked on a Sinclair, but I also owe my interest in music, literally, to iTunes and the iPod.

So please excuse me if I get all sentimental and shed a tear for the iPod's fifth birthday.

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